Lebanese authorities warned about danger of hazardous chemicals

Lebanese authorities were repeatedly warned about danger of hazardous chemicals stored at the Beirut port for SIX YEARS – amid suggestions it should be given to the army or sold to an explosives company

  • The Lebanese judiciary were warned for six years about the hazardous chemical
  • Customs officials suggested the cargo could be sold or given to the army 
  • They did not receive replies and the substance was left in Hangar 12 in Beirut 

Lebanese authorities were repeatedly warned about the danger of the ammonium nitrate stored at the Beirut port for six years. 

Director General of Lebanese Customs Badri Daher said the country’s judiciary was told repeatedly about 2,750 tons of the hazardous chemical stored in a warehouse in the Lebanese capital. 

Customs officials are understood to have asked authorities to move the dangerous substance from Hangar 12 due to the danger they believe it posed to the city, but were never given permission.  

In documents published online they suggested it could be given to the army or sold to an explosives company, but did not receive any replies, leaving the explosive cargo languishing in the now destroyed port area of the capital.

Wounded men are evacuated following of an explosion at the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut

Mr Daher told local Lebanese outlet LBCI that it looked like fireworks were stored near the ammonium nitrate.

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical used in fertiliser bombs and is widely used by the construction industry but also by insurgent groups such as the Taliban and the IRA for improvised explosives. 

The explosion – which is thought to have been sparked after a welder caused a fire at the port – has killed more than 100 people and injured thousands more, while leaving 300,000 people destitute.

As residents survey the wreckage of their city this morning and mourn loved ones they are quickly turning to anger at who is to blame for the devastating blast that is already struggling economically and from the impact of coronavirus. 

The cargo is understood to have arrived in the capital in September 2013 from a Russian-owned cargo vessel called the Moldovan flag, as reported by Al Jazeera.

An aerial view shows the massive damage at Beirut port’s grain silos and the area around it

It was forced to dock at in Beirut due to technical issues, but then was eventually abandoned by the crew after Lebanese officials refused to let it leave.

The first warning about the potential danger of the chemicals stored at the port came on June 27, 2014 from then-director of Lebanese Customs Shafik Merhi.

Officials then sent further letters of increasing urgency about the danger the hazardous chemicals posed to the Lebanese judiciary.

One letter sent in 2016 said: “In view of the serious danger of keeping these goods in the hangar in unsuitable climatic conditions, we reaffirm our request to please request the marine agency to re-export these goods immediately to preserve the safety of the port and those working in it, or to look into agreeing to sell this amount”to the Lebanese Explosives Company.’

The missives were never replied to despite the obvious danger they posed to the city.  

In 2017 new customs chief Daher implored the judge to make a decision in regards to the chemicals, but they were left sitting in a hangar.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed those responsible will ‘pay the price’ as he declared a two-week state of emergency to deal with the crisis, urging to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend, adding: ‘We are witnessing a real catastrophe.’

The United States, the UK, France, the Gulf states and even bitter rivals Israel have offered aid to the country, which is already grappling with twin economic and coronavirus crises. 

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